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Starbucks CEO urges citizens to back anti-gridlock move

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks to shareholders at the company's annual meeting of shareholders in Seattle, Washington
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks to shareholders at the company's annual meeting of shareholders in Seattle, Washington

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp chief executive Howard Schultz urged members of the public on Friday to join a novel campaign he launched last month seeking to break partisan gridlock in Washington and spur economic growth.

In an open letter circulated via email, the head of the world's biggest coffee chain invited "concerned Americans" to take part in a national call-in conversation next Tuesday hosted by the nonpartisan group No Labels, dedicated to fostering cooperative and more effective government.

The group, based in Washington, hopes to draw "a couple hundred-thousand" citizens to join in the 90-minute "tele-townhall" with co-founders of the organization and Schultz, to be streamed live over the Internet, No Labels spokesman Dustin Carnevale said.

The teleconference comes ahead of a nationally televised Republican presidential debate on Wednesday, and President Barack Obama's Thursday address to a joint session of Congress on his plan for creating more jobs.

"Like so many of you, I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failure of leadership in Washington," Schultz wrote in the letter addressed: "Dear Starbucks Friend and Fellow Citizen."

"And also like you, I am frustrated by our political leaders' steadfast refusal to recognize that, for every day they perpetuate partisan conflict and put ideology over country, America and Americans suffer from the combined effects of paralysis and uncertainty," he said.

The letter concludes: "Yours is the voice that can help ignite the contagious upward spiral of confidence that our country desperately needs."

The message, sent first to customers on Starbucks' email distribution list under the subject: "A special letter from Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz," directed readers to a website with more information about the "No Labels" forum, at www.upwardspiral2011.org.

Last month, Schultz made headlines when he called on business leaders to pledge to withhold campaign contributions to the president and members of Congress until they reached a "fair, bipartisan deal" on the national debt, revenues and spending.

He also challenged those executives to do their part to invest in new projects or new products that would help spur employment and give the national economy a much-needed jolt.

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote a piece about Schultz's call to boycott campaign contributions, and the newspaper followed that up with an editorial in which billionaire investor Warren Buffett called for an increase in taxes for mega-rich individuals, including himself.

Schultz said in Friday's letter that more than 100 U.S. business executives from companies large and small have since signed on to his pledge.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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